Failing Recognition Program

Is Your Recognition Program Failing? Do This Instead

5 min read
Lynsey May Sutherland
Lynsey Sutherland

You’ve understood the benefits of employee recognition and invested in setting up a program. Now you just sit back and reap the rewards – right? 

When an employee recognition program works well, it can give your company’s culture a huge boost. Gallup found that employees are five times as likely to be connected when recognition hits its mark. If your recognition program isn’t working as intended, it can lead to confusion and, in extreme cases, resentment across the company. 

So, what do you do if your recognition program is failing? We have the answers. 

Common Recognition Program Problems

If your recognition program is struggling to take off or isn’t leading to the results you originally hoped for, here are a few reasons why that could be the case. 

A lack of leadership buy-in

For a recognition program to be successful, it has to be an integral part of your company’s ecosystem. If your leadership team doesn’t buy into it, why should your employees? 

Your leaders are one of the most significant pieces of the puzzle when trying to roll out an employee recognition program. Their lack of buy-in will add an immediate obstacle to any new initiative. 

Leaders can easily shift their focus onto something else and lose interest. Still, you need them to be engaged in the program and model consistent interaction with it from the beginning. 

How to fix it

If you think the problem is because your leaders haven’t bought into the program, it’s essential to communicate how beneficial a successful recognition program can be. Back up your discussion with stats and the expected ROI when the program works as expected.

For example, you could refer to a recent employee engagement study from Psychometrics that found that 58% of employees wanted their leaders to give them more recognition and praise.

It could also be because they don’t understand how exactly the program works. If you decide to use employee recognition software, it might be beneficial to have regular sessions on how to use it correctly, where to find certain features in the platform and why they are important. 

You waited too long to start your program

Recognition programs are very powerful – but they are only successful if everyone is excited, energised and involved. 

One of the main reasons why employee recognition programs fail is because they are launched after significant harm has been done. If engagement and morale are already at an all-time low, it might be too late for an employee recognition program.  

Employees may also be reluctant to participate as they may feel you’re adding more tasks to their daily lives rather than creating a better work environment. 

How to fix it

The big issues here are communication and presentation. Start by discussing the program openly and regularly, explaining the benefits and focusing on how it can reward individuals. Once that’s established, use company or team meetings to highlight great things from the program. 

Make sure all your managers know about the program so they can showcase it to their teams and include all the details in your onboarding process. Check in on the various ways people can get involved too – the easier you make it for employees to get started, the more likely they are to use the program as intended. 

There’s a transactional feel to your program

When employees start to feel as though a program might be transactional, it undermines the whole purpose of the endeavour. While this tends to be a problem faced by bigger companies, where it can be harder to hold on to that personal touch, it can affect smaller organisations too. A few common causes include:

  • There’s too much emphasis on monetary or physical rewards
  • Lack of personalisation 
  • Recognition is focused solely on financial targets 

How to fix it

If you find yourself in this situation, you want to ensure your employees feel that the recognition program is there to support and recognise their achievements, not something to trick them into working harder. How do you do that? Recognise the full extent of their achievements, not just those with financial gain. 

Celebrate small and personal victories, introduce rewards that focus on well-being (like days off or extra flexitime) and ask your employees what they’d like in the way of recognition. 

It may be that relaunching your program is the best way to reinvigorate it. It might sound like a lot of work, but this will be important to help switch the focus!

You’re relying on manager-to-peer recognition

When you rely solely on manager-to-peer recognition, programs become one-sided and top-heavy. Peer-to-peer recognition is extremely valuable when building a recognition-rich culture in your organisation. Providing a space for employees to support and celebrate each other also helps create a sense of community. 

The best recognition is the kind that is genuine and heartfelt – and who better to notice the little things that make or break a day than the people you share it with? According to Indeed, peer-to-peer recognition is also a way to build trust between employees and managers. Employees can engage autonomously without relying on management to provide recognition or approval.

How to fix it

Put the focus on peer-to-peer communication, recognition, and engagement in a fun and compelling way. You can’t force people to socialise or to care about each other, but you can show them how easy it is to make someone’s day and start to grow a caring culture. 

Create space for relaxed conversation by building extra time into your meetings and coffee breaks, and be sure to use communication software that encourages casual chats and focused messages. 

At Mo, everyone can celebrate those all-important Moments – whether it’s a big win at work, a special occasion at home, or a celebration of a small but meaningful success. Peers can quickly share the moments that matter most to them with their colleagues online, boosting positivity and helping to build high-performing habits.  

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Recognition Programs: Key Takeaways

  • Successful employee recognition programs can significantly boost company culture and employee engagement, but failure to address issues can lead to confusion and resentment.
  • Common problems with recognition programs include lack of leadership buy-in, delayed implementation, transactional feel, and over-reliance on manager-to-peer recognition.
  • Solutions include emphasising the benefits of the program to leaders, timely implementation, avoiding transactional approaches, incorporating peer-to-peer recognition, and fostering a supportive and celebratory environment.

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